When Ohio became a state in 1803, wild turkeys inhabited every corner. By 1904, they were gone. Their numbers had quickly declined as their preferred forested habitat was converted to cropland, was subjected to intensive lumbering without replanting, and the process of coal mining with little environmental conscience damaged hillsides and streams.
From 1956 to 1963, a wild turkey reintroduction program began with 142 birds that had been live-trapped from West Virginia, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, Texas, Arkansas and Florida. These birds were shipped by air and rail, and stocked in deeply wooded areas.
Ohio’s first modern-day wild turkey season opened in 1966 in nine counties, and hunters checked 12 birds. The wild turkey harvest topped 1,000 for the first time in 1984. Spring turkey hunting opened statewide in 2000, and Ohio hunters checked more than 20,000 wild turkeys for the first time that year. Today there are approximately 180,000 wild turkeys in Ohio.
This year’s turkey season opened April 24 and the Division of Wildlife estimates that 70,000 licensed hunters, not counting exempt landowners hunting on their own property, will enjoy this spring’s season.
Ohio hunters checked 10,280 wild turkeys during the first week of the season, April 24-30. New for 2017, the state has been divided into two zones: a south zone, which opened April 24; and a northeast zone, which opened May 1.
This two-zone season structure was established following a hunter survey and a two-year study of hens in the northeastern part of Ohio. The spring season bag limit is two bearded turkeys. Hunters can harvest one bearded turkey per day, and a second spring turkey permit can be purchased at any time throughout the spring turkey season.
The reintroduction of the wild turkey to Ohio’s counties is a result of the comprehensive research and work of trained wildlife professionals and the protection afforded by state wildlife officers. We owe these folks our thanks for that work and many other wildlife successes in our state.
Also, you might give thanks to those who purchase hunting and fishing licenses and Wildlife Legacy stamps: They pay for all the work.
Local harvests for the first week’s hunt and the comparative number from last year are: Allen: 36 (37); Hancock: 24 (25); Hardin: 43 (49); Putnam: 32 (40); Seneca: 90 (69); Wood: 11 (16); Wyandot: 50 (42).
“That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.” — Aldo Leopold
Along the way
The Ohio House of Representatives has passed a bill that would raise nonresident fees for deer and turkey permits. While a good start, this is contrary to what was being encouraged by a wide range of the state’s conservation clubs.
The 30-plus clubs had urged representatives to also raise the hunting and fishing license fees a total of $3 each. This amounts to a $6 per-year total increase to the average resident sportsman, a small inconvenience to maintain professional wildlife management and enforcement in the state.
The governor seems to also be at odds with the public’s opinion and has used his influence to discourage the increase.
Now, six former Division of Wildlife chiefs, who can no longer be ordered to stay quiet, have voiced their concerns. These six conservation leaders served five governors (Rhodes, Celeste, Voinovich, Taft and Strickland) and led the state’s wildlife agency during 28 of the past 35 years, right up until Gov. Kasich was elected.
In reading the former chiefs’ letter to the governor, it’s clear that these conservationists are deeply concerned about the financial crisis facing the agency they once led, and they are further worried that declining services to Ohio’s sportsmen will result in steep declines in participation and funding for conservation.
Their letter states: “Ohio needs better managed public land, more educational programming to help people locate places to hunt and fish and trap, more boating access, and better stocked waterways. Unfortunately, Ohio is heading the other direction. Financial austerity is causing declining quality. While fiscal efficiency is important, maintaining quality service is even more so.”
Their action follows the unanimous recommendation by the Ohio Wildlife Council that the state increase user license fees. The council is a bipartisan panel appointed by Gov. Kasich to advise the chief executive of Ohio, the director of natural resources and the Legislature on important matters facing Ohio’s fish and wildlife resources.
Apparently, some of our elected officials believe ignoring professional opinion and appointed experts is a better political move. Hopefully, our state’s Senate will side with the people and with conservation, and not follow political orders.
Whether you’re a birdwatcher or duck hunter, fisherman or hiking enthusiast, we all benefit from a healthy conservation program.
Take the time to express your views to State Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, a member of the Energy and Natural Resource Committee and a key figure in what will happen with the future of Ohio conservation.
Reach Hite by phone at 614-466-8150 or email www.ohiosenate.gov/hite/contact
“Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation.” — Simon Sinek
• Today and tomorrow: 3-D mixed animal archery match, registration opens at 8 a.m., 11400 Allen Township 109, Findlay. In this event, moms shoot free and kids 12 and under are always free. Re-entries are half-price.
• Today and tomorrow: Maumee Valley Gun Collectors show, Lucas County Recreation Center, Maumee.
• Tomorrow: sporting clays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
• Thursday and Friday: trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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